Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Growing Words

With two papers to present at conferences at the end of May and early June, I'm finally trying to get words on paper (well, on the screen actually) after research, reading, note-taking, outlining, and all those pre-writing activities. I've been very quickly reminded of why I started my blog -- my desire to get back to a kind of writing that didn't make me anxious and hyper-aware of so many potential judgemental editors. Once again, I find myself doing all kinds of procrastinating activities -- checking blogs, yes, and then later in the day, re-checking them; checking e-mail; checking Facebook. So handy this writing at the computer is with the keyboard always available to take me for a little detour, away from the task at hand.
But if I get tired of where the keyboard will take me, I can go outside and check out my garden -- this weekend I spent hours there weeding and pruning and glorying in the blooms. Here's an epimedium bringing its daintily cheerful sprigs to a difficult corner -- shady, exposed to salty winds, with poor soil, dry in the summer but often soggy through the winter.
To its right you can see another stalwart, Wooly Lamb's ear (stachys byzantina) which colonizes those dry, sunny spots in poor soil where little else wants to grow. Colonizes it so well, in fact, that I'm now pulling up stachys b. whenever I think of it, with no worries that I'll have some left to fill in.
I wish I could say the same of this Trillium, now fading from its first virginal white through the pale mauve which will eventually turn to a darker purple before dying away. At some point later this spring the whole plant will disappear below the soil again, and I'll cross my fingers that it will reappear next spring. It's left here as part of the original flora, preceding clearing and landscaping that took place 50 or so years ago. I keep wishing it would generate a few new plants, but so far, nothing. Notice just to the right of the trillium the native Salal, not nearly as reticent about reclaiming a spot -- I'm quite sure that if we left the garden alone, the salal would cover a good percentage of the yard within not too many years.

Trying to write this paper, ever mindful of the question period following its presentation at the conference next month, I have to force myself to stay with it. An anxiety surely left over from my dissertation-writing (and which I don't remember at all from earlier coursework where I'd often be excited to test out an idea in writing) makes me uncomfortably self-critical, full of self-doubt and slightly nauseous at having to commit ideas to sentences, then paragraphs. I promise myself that if I write for fifteen minutes, I can take a break, and if I'm lucky I get engaged, caught up, and the fifteen minutes stretches. I try never to take a break without recording the next idea I want to develop, so that I don't have to come back and start from scratch but rather have some momentum to work with. This euphorbia (Euphorbia characias ssp. wulfenii) seems to generate brilliant new growth much more easily! And it's working under conditions at least as poor as those governing my own project. After all, I have most of the research done and a reasonable amount of time to write, whereas this poor plant has to stand up to salty seapray and lives in very poor soil -- at least it has good drainage.

I planted two of these three summers ago and they're growing very slowly -- I look forward to the day that they reach the architectural proportions of the fabulous specimens all along English Bay in Vancouver.
I'm glad I took this break, procrastination though it obviously is. It reminded me that I do like writing and also made me hopeful that my words, like these flowers, might grow. Now I suppose I'd better go give myself another fifteen minutes at building a convincing argument. Meanwhile, perhaps you'd like to tell me what tasks drive you to procrastination, and what form your procrastination takes.


  1. I have ALWAYS been a procrastinator! At school and university I would take a great interest in making sure everything was laid out on my desk just so before committing a word to paper. Of course, I always ended up working right up to the deadline! Nowadays it's the computer that does it for me too - it's in the open plan living room/kitchen so it's very tempting to just check one more blog or one more newspaper before or even whilst getting on with the daily tasks. Patricia

  2. I'm battling with a similar bout of procrastination and distraction; we're in the middle of writing performance evaluations for our staff, and it's so easy to pop off and read blogs for a while (as I've just done now). Beautiful garden shots as always. (sigh) My poor little garden is still awaiting some TLC. I seem to procrastinate there as well.

  3. The only GOOD thing about procrastinating is I sometimes do it by tackling something ELSE I don't want to do - so instead of writing an article, I'll do a load of laundry or take out the compost. Usually, however, it's the same things - reading blogs and looking at pretty pictures! Your garden is lovely, by the way.

  4. Lovely post.Sometimes i am also a procrastinator,but i just make sure that i will not be like that always...;D
    Have a wonderful time..;D


  5. I think it's normal..;D
    but better to do things on right time.;D


  6. This is perfect! You write on your blog when you procrastinate, and I read your blog when I procrastinate! A good pair.

  7. I wonder what would happen if you wrote to please yourself, with full faith in your intellectual ability, without considering other judges? That's not easy to do, but when I start from that point, my ideas are clear and concise.

  8. Patricia: I'm not much of a procrastinator in general, not having the nerves for the last minute push. There's just something about certain kinds of writing . . .
    Pseu: Did you get those baskets/pots planted a few weeks ago? Gardens, at least, are more forgiving of procrastination than workplaces.
    Duchesse: Ah, you'd have me living in a parallel universe;-)
    In fact, while some of the self-doubt is simply a tiresome impediment, some of it -- imagining those judging readers -- is part of what makes the final product stronger, I think, as long as I can hold my own in contending with them. But I don't find the process fun!
    Tiffany: Yes, especially if I'm working at home, procrastinating can be productive. If I'm on campus, there are distracting social possibilities. Sadly, though, there are only certain kinds of housework that have any appeal for procrastination, laundry being the primary task. Most of the rest will send me back to my writing!
    Summer/Solo: True, it's normal to procrastinate, but better not to.
    Deb: Nice to have you here -- my gardening efforts are very modest compared to your ambitious projects!

  9. I am studying for boards now and that is creating huge procrastination. Bill paying; house cleaning; returning phone calls. All of these can inspire me to waste hours on-line.

    Thanks for explaining that gardening is a way of procrastinating. I get it now. I think I might go to Home Depot and buy some plants. Anything is better than studying.

  10. LBR: oooh yes, there's garden-planning, then there's the plant-buying, then there's the planting and the weeding and the trimming and the sitting back and watching. When did you say those boards were? We can have you procrastinating for weeks before you have to write, really!


I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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